July 29, 2010
The first thing we're taught to do when we get in a car is buckle up. Now, a University of Virginia team of researchers has received more than $2 million in federal grant money to study how elderly drivers react differently in a crash.
Researchers from the University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics and the Institute of Aging in Charlottesville are working together on the research. They say seat belts are not designed for the specific needs of elderly people.
Max Gentry always buckles up, but says it can sometimes be painful.
"With the strap over, unless I have a jacket on or a collar I can turn on, it rubs my neck and that bothers me. It was bothering me so much because of the heat, I put it under my arm. I was still strapped but I wasn't getting the protection it's meant to have," said Gentry.
And Gentry is not alone. Scientists and doctors say more research needs to be done on elderly drivers and passengers.
"Older people break easier than younger occupants," said UVa. senior scientist, Greg Shaw.
A $2.5 million grant from the federal government will provide a major boost for researchers to investigate the different kinds of injuries elderly drivers sustain.
"We've found that rib fractures happen more frequently. Rib fractures are usually very minor, but for an older individual, once they get a rib fracture it's difficult to breathe, and they could develop pneumonia," said Shaw.
Just like we have seen the development of safety seats for young children, researchers may be poised to find ways to adjust cars for the elderly, which could lead to the first elderly crash test dummy.
Ultimately, researchers hope to find ways to make our cars keep up with out growing elderly population.
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